One cannot watch the speeches without a certain sense of wonder. US President Joe Biden has already admitted twice in speeches that the Israeli military is engaging in “indiscriminate bombing” in its current campaign against Hamas, which has killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians.
Officially these are crimes against the laws of war: bombing schools, hospitals, refugee camps. Actions will destroy Hamas's nervous system. Asked for an answer, Biden's response was unequivocal: unconditional support. Prominent lawyers say in the open letter that the president appears to be implicitly endorsing the war crimes in question — not an uncomplicated choice within international law. Yet the government is sticking to its stance: “We are not going to do anything other than continue to support Israel, and certainly nothing else.”
Reactions to that condition are inevitable. The Portuguese diplomat Bruno Mases pointed out that such views lacked essentially a virtue that American politicians in the twentieth century still tried to secretly extol: hypocrisy.
After World War II, the United States took over the torch of world leadership from the United Kingdom. Even during the most intense episodes of the Cold War, America tried to maintain a pretense of impartiality. For example, when Israel bombed the Lebanese capital Beirut in 1982, citing dead and maimed children, US President Reagan urged a ceasefire.
Now Israeli propaganda appears to threaten that pretend leadership role. As a geopolitical defender, this puts the US in dire straits. Right-wing elements within the Israeli government are using the current campaign mainly to incite a regional war. After that, apart from the Gaza Strip, parts of Lebanon may also be annexed. The regional response was immediate: Yemeni Houthi rebels shelled tankers en route to Chinese ports, while Saudi Arabia promptly interrupted its peace talks with Israel. From Qatar, Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken tried to calm emotions, but maneuvering made little difference.
This is reminiscent of the situation experienced by the British in the twentieth century. For example, in the mid-1960s, the white apartheid state of Rhodesia (later to become Zimbabwe) declared its independence from the United Kingdom. The motherland insisted on the decolonization of the state once named after British goldsmith Cecil Rhodes. Rhodesia was industrialized and racially divided: a small white minority controlled the black majority. The British also imposed conditions: black and white Rhodesians would have universal suffrage, and black parties would participate in elections.
The locals don't like it. They saw blacks primarily as a reservoir of cheap labor and proposed a more gradual process of emancipation. White votes carry more weight than black votes. White Rhodesia later enacted the Declaration of Independence and retained its apartheid system.
The Labor government briefly considered sending troops, but ultimately backed away from an invasion. People are not fighting against their own 'family members', the British Prime Minister then boasted. Accusations of hypocrisy came from the Third World; But at least the Prime Minister was still considered a hypocrite.
In other words, even a declining empire insisted on a more egalitarian peace process than current US leaders. Although China openly calls for an independent Palestinian state, the Americans do not value the pretense of mediation in the Middle East.
The consequences seem predictable. White Rhodesia eventually fell after a long and bloody civil war in which guerrillas from neighboring Angola overthrew the colonial government.
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